Sturgis and sex trafficking: advocates say the problem is growing each year

Sturgis and sex trafficking: advocates say the problem is growing each year
Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 4:55 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2022 at 4:56 PM CDT
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STURGIS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - At the invitation of The Buffalo Chip, the human trafficking survivor-led organization, Treasured Lives, is holding a fundraiser at the campground, with a meal and auction.

Tickets for the event held on Friday, Aug. 12 are still available at SturgisRallyWrapParty.Com.

While most people go to Sturgis for the fun, the music, and the motorcycles, some people are there to make money off of human trafficking. Executive Director of Call to Freedom in Sioux Falls, Becky Rasmussen, says it happens in plain sight.

“Human trafficking is not an event occurrence. It is an everyday occurrence and we are seeing more survivors walk through the doors of color freedom as we’re getting more awareness pieces out, as we’re talking to first responders,” says Becky.

Victims can be trafficked in several ways, by their family, a pimp, or on a larger scale.

“You have an organized front, usually facilitating human trafficking because there’s a lot of money to be made...we need to really look at that and Sturgis,” said Becky.

Author and Executive Director of Treasured Lives, Kelly Patterson, is on the front lines at the rally.

“I personally was traffic at Sturgis,” said Kelly. “They ‘Romeo’ this girl and they’re the best boyfriend ever until they have cut them off from their family and friends. And then they become the monster who pimps them out.”

You can help fight human trafficking. There are signs to look for, like tattoos with the word King-which is their pimp, money signs, bar codes, and street-gang numbers to be recognized by other gangs. Victims are closely monitored by those who keep them.

“They stand around the end near the restroom the entire time she’s in there until she comes out. They are going to be following her every move,” said Kelly. “She will not be making much eye contact again. Also, look for extra caution signs of fear.”

If you suspect human trafficking, the best thing to do is discreetly get license plates, and any identifying information, then contact the police.

There is a disproportionate number of Native Americans in South Dakota that are victims of human trafficking with 49% from West River and 38% from East River. Authorities say crisis housing is being planned very soon.

To help women escape human trafficking, visit TreasuredHouse.Org.

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